Telstra flips position on LTE vs HSPA+

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
24 Jul 2013

Australia's Telstra is to extend its LTE coverage to a further 200 regional towns across Australia in the next six months. COO Brendon Riley said the roll-out will take Telstra's 4G coverage to 85% of the population by year end, up from 66% at the end of June.

An additional 1,500 base stations will be 4G-enabled, in addition to the 2,000 already active. The boost in the LTE rollout will come at the expense of installing new 3G antennas, Riley said. Telstra's 4G network traffic is currently growing by about 23% every month, with 2.1 million devices on the network as of March. Meanwhile, 3G network traffic growth is slowing as customers begin to switch over to LTE.

Although in 2011 Telstra was keen to rely on pushing its world-beating HSPA+ network to its limit before investing heavily in LTE, it has now switched its focus to the 4G technology, driven by lower cost, software-driven ways to upgrade, and by user demand.

“Given the take-up we're seeing in 4G, we've made the decision to change our investment strategy. We're now going to be deploying 4G as a capacity play instead of 3G antennas. We're still seeing some 3G growth, but the rate of the 3G growth is slowing pretty rapidly as 4G starts to take off,” Riley said.

“We're going to need to continue to invest in 3G just because of the size of the network, but increasingly, we'll be looking to emphasise the 4G investment, given the take-up rate and new devices.”

In early 2015, Telstra will be able to activate its 700-MHz digital dividend spectrum as well as 2.5-GHz frequencies - but that will require new equipment, whereas it has, so far, been overlaying or refarming its network in 1.8-GHz.

“The equipment to enable 700-MHz will be additional equipment, and that will be similar to what we would do for any ongoing capacity expansion anyway, so it's not as though it's throw out one and replace, it's just add-on,” Riley told ZDnet.

Telstra now has 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 1.8-GHz band in Perth, Brisbane, and Adelaide, and 15 MHz in Sydney and Melbourne, after a rebanding effort by the regulator.

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